The feelings of exclusion, isolation, solitude and difficulty in accessing the services that characterize every migratory experience, are amplified in the time of COVID-19. The dangers and difficulties of this health emergency are likely to affect migrants and asylum seekers worst, as they are often crammed into large centers, excluded from reception systems or piled up in informal settlements in cities or in rural areas. These are all places where it is particularly difficult to comply with hygiene measures and social distancing and where protection tools are often lacking, not to mention the difficulty in accessing the health service.
Despite the COVID-19, the departure of migrants bound for Italy from Libya has not stopped. Even just in the past few days we have seen a boat wreck with dozens of people on board, while a rubber dinghy with a hundred immigrants managed to reach Sicily independently.
With the recent circular no. 3393 of 18 March 2020 from the Head of the Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration, the attention of the prefects was drawn to the provisions adopted for the prevention of the spread of the COVID-19 virus, as part of the reception system for applicants for international protection and centers for repatriation. The circular highlights that on arrival in Italy, migrants must undergo the scheduled screening by the competent health authorities to ascertain whether they have infectious diseases or symptoms attributable to the COVID-19 virus. Subsequently, health surveillance and isolation measures must be activated for a period of fourteen days, for which dedicated spaces must be made available inside the centers or in other dedicated areas. Only at the end of this 14-day period, if no positive cases have emerged, can migrants be transferred to another reception facility, subject to the issue of suitable health certification.
Furthermore, the same circular states that the prescription of the terms provided for by the “Cura Italia” decree also applies to residence permits expiring between January 31 and April 15, 2020, now extended until June 15.
Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are among the most vulnerable categories, especially minors and women, who often do not know where to turn to find adequate information and assistance. As such, accessible health and psychological support, especially in a delicate moment like this, can become essential.
Hence the idea of activating an emergency number (800905570 / Lycamobile: 3511376335) managed by “Médecins du Monde” “Missione Italia” in collaboration with UNICEF and the association “Asinitas”. The number isaimed not only at all those who do not have a general practitioner and who would like to receive a telephone consultation on COVID-19, but also for those who require psychological first aid support. This service joins the toll-free number for medical and health services for asylum seekers and refugees managed by “Arci”, to which the Italian doctors of Médecins du Monde offer their advice.
Further information, relating to the emergency situation from COVI-19, is reported on the website indicated below. It is a multilingual portal launched by UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, in collaboration with ARCI, containing a section dedicated to the rules and behaviors to be followed to protect against contamination, recommended by the Ministry of Health. A further section provides updates on asylum and immigration.
In this particularly delicate period it is essential that the managing bodies of the migrant centers, with the help of cultural mediators, carry out a large-scale information activity, in a broad and up-to-date way, on the risks of the spread of the virus, hygiene and sanitary recommendations, distancing within the centers, movement restrictions and, in cases where the most stringent measures are envisaged for cases of fiduciary isolation or quarantine, the need for their absolute respect.
Fear or intolerance must not be allowed to jeopardize respect for human rights or compromise the effectiveness of responses carried out at global, national and local levels to combat the pandemic. This is a battle to be defeated all together and this will only be possible when each of us is protected.